Alan Horn is a very familiar figure to comic book fans. Entertainment studio executive, a Warner Bros, he's famous in comics as the man who pushed to reduce the generosity of DC Vertigo contracts to creators, that saw the likes of Garth Ennis, Warren Ellis, Grant Morrison, Mark Millar, Neil Gaiman and others jump ship, bolstering rivals such as Marvel's Icon imprint, Image Comics, Dark Horse, Dynamite and Avatar. It was the first in a series of dubious steps that would eventually see DC Comics close the imprint.
And at Disney, he was one of the principal figures involved in removing Marvel Comics influence on Marvel Films' output, so that Marvel Films head Kevin Feige reported directly to him rather than to Ike Permutter, and no longer had to take notes from the East Coast's Marvel Comics Creative Committee, made up of Joe Quesada, Brian Bendis, Mark Millar and the like.
Rumours sourced from Disney employees talking to Bleeding Cool over the weekend suggest that Horn's involvement with the recent Sony/Marvel Spider-Man split may not have been as they have been reported elsewhere.
And they centre around the phrase "God, Alan almost messed that up bad."
Recently, there was a huge kerfuffle over the relationship between Marvel and Sony over the future of the Spider-Man films. The previous two movies, the Captain America; Civil War and both Avengers movie appearances were as a part of an agreement between Marvel and Sony. Sony has the Spider-Man movie rights in perpetuity, if they keep making new movies, a deal made at the time of Marvel's bankruptcy and before the Disney purchase. A similar deal (but not identical) exists between Marvel and Fox over X-Men and the Fantastic Four. Disney bought Fox which solved that issue – but that's not happening with Sony.
So, when Disney demanded a greater percentage of revenue, a 50/50 deal, for the Marvel Studios Spider-Man films. Sony balked, pulled the deal and everything went south. Until a few days when it all got sorted out.
But what really happened?
I'm told the Disney gossip is that Disney's Alan Horn had got the situation with the rights all backwards, in his head. That he somehow thought that Disney was licensing Spider-Man to Sony to use, and not that Sony held the rights. And so, when Sony didn't agree to the demanded new deal, Horn told them that Disney wouldn't allow them to use Spider-Man anymore, totally ignorant to the rights situation. And Sony said 'fine'.
Cue the involvement of Kevin Feige, who did know the score, and was brought in to negotiate directly with Sony instead of Horn, and sort everything out… the word is that Disney now receive 25 percent of the profits from Spider-Man 3, but they also have to pay a similar percentage of the production costs – and Sony can also use Spider-Man to some degree in their other non-Spider-Man movies, such as Venom, Morbius, Silver Sable, Black Cat, Madame Web, whatever they are going for…
And so now we have a third new Marvel Studios Spider-Man movie to come in 2021. But it was a close one…